Bœuf Bourguignon

Beef has never met a more rightful purpose for its greatness than bœuf bourguignon. Bar none. It stops there. You can have a juicy steak, you can have a filet mignon, you can have a rare burger… all great in their own right, but nothing comes close to this established and proven greatness. Wine, meat, veggies, loooong, sloooow cooking… It is unparalleled. If this is my final meal, I would die happy.

I had a bit of beef leftover in my freezer and was debating whether to make it beef with beer, beef with carrots, etc etc… but as always when facing stewing beef, I can’t, I just can’t help myself. It is a natural conclusion in my mind that I need to marry the wine and meat and they’re to have a loooong dance in the oven to celebrate their unique individual greatness and toast to each other because they’re creating something extraordinary.

I never had it when I was growing up. I only started making it a few years back. I have asked my mother to make it, but being on a tight budget, pouring half a bottle of wine into a dish, as much as it would make it amazing I guess felt like a waste to my poor mother…. And being the perfectionist (hmm… I wonder where I got that from…) she’d rather not make it if it is not the way it is supposed to be. Why fool yourself?

This is my favourite bœuf bourguignon recipe. I have to admit, as narrow-minded as it’ll sound, that I have never made a different recipe. I tried this and fell in love. Why mess with success? I had once had a cook off with someone on bœuf bourguignon. The other recipe was the Julia Child one. There are only slight differences, for e.g. she cooks the mushrooms and pearl onions separately and then adds them in. Here, you cook them beforehand in the same pot and then you add them in the end. Why dirty another dish, Julia? Also, that way I don’t lose the mushroom juices.

Back to the cook off. I liked Julia’s, yes, but I am partial to mine. We agreed to disagree cause we were just too proud and too prejudiced for our own recipes. Mind you, it was me who found the other contestant pecking through my bœuf bourguignon, cold, out of the fridge! That to me was victory enough. The response I got was, “That’s only ’cause mine wasn’t around.” You were caught red-handed and that’s that. 🙂

I am pretty sure any good enough to drink red wine could work here. Ideally, a red Burgundy wine, like a Pinot Noir.  Nothing too expensive, and please have respect, nothing too cheap. Also, no Beaujolais and no heavy Bordeaux either. For this particular one, I chose a Côtes du Rhône. It was a good enough choice since I stuck to the general region of France, wine-wise. I do like Côtes du Rhône very much, so that played a role. Once I opened the bottle and tasted the wine…. I had a change of heart. There was no way this amazing bottle was going inside the stew! It was just too good. Thank goodness, I had a little bit of an opened Bordeaux wine, that was kind of thin and I didn’t particularly care for it, so used that up and I finished the required quantity with the Côtes du Rhône. It did not hurt in the end.

This recipe is from my trusted source, the LCBO’s “Food and Drink” magazine. They have another recipe that I haven’t tried, only because they flour the meat before browning (why?!) but there is one thing I’d like to steal from that recipe and try and remember to do it: marinate the meat in the wine beforehand!

The recipe I am making, originally, calls for 2 1/2 lbs (1.25 kg) stewing beef!!! That is an astronomical amount! I have never made it with half a cow. Seriously! The most I’ve made it is maybe with 700 gr. Tops. I have never until now meddled with the liquid quantities though. I like to have plenty of sauce kicking around. Now, on the other hand, since I only had some 340 gr of meat, once I cleaned it from the fat (yes, I remove the fat), I decided to half the liquid. Bad idea!!! The more the better. It’s not dry or anything, there’s plenty, I just wanted more 🙂

In the end, what you can do, but it is entirely optional, is to thicken the reduced jus with a beurre manie. I didn’t do it this time because I thought that the little bit of jus I had was going to reduce even further and I wasn’t going to be left with much. Besides, I saved myself that little bit of calories. The bœuf bourguignon works even without the beurre manie, trust me. This is the second time I am having it without; the first time it was unintentional 🙂

The recipe uses beef stock. I have done it with store-bought beef stock, chicken stock and home-made beef stock. Naturally, it works best with home-made beef stock, but the others work fine as well (that was my upper hand in winning the cook off. I was serious from the get-go) The recipe asks for cremini mushrooms, but I’ve always used white button mushrooms and have never looked back.

Because this is a very large recipe, it asks for one head of garlic, dry papery layers and top third of the bulb removed, to be stewed with the meat and vegetables in the oven and then removed. I have never used an entire head of garlic. I put a few cloves, cleaned and smashed and frankly, they demateralize in some creaminess, somewhere, somehow that I never bother to fish them out.

If you have never made this for yourself, have never experienced the wine hitting the pan (probably my favourite moment in cooking), have never had the falling apart buttery beef infused with all the wine and vegetables and herbs, then you are missing out in life. Big time. This dish is not expensive to make. Even if you can’t afford a bottle of wine. Believe me, it is a rightful investment. You can thank yourselves later. Splurge, just once. I beg you.

Ingredients:

340 gr stewing beef

a few tbsps olive oil

a handful of chopped bacon

8-9 pearl onions, cleaned, whole (other very small onions work fine too)

170 gr mushrooms, quartered

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stick, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, cleaned and smashed

1 cup of red wine (2 cups for full recipe)

1 cup of stock (or water + 1/2 bouillon cube) (2 cups for full recipe)

2 bay leaves

1 – 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

(optional, parsley sprigs, no leaves)

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Heat a bit of oil in cocotte or a Dutch oven and sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove and reserve on a plate with a paper towel.

2. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms and sauté until browned, the mushrooms are juicy and the onions are softened. Remove and reserve.

(didn’t use the herbes de provence)

3. Heat a bit more oil and brown the meat. If you have a lot, do this in batches. (remember what Julie in “Julie and Julia” taught you? Dry your meat so it’ll brown. You can. If you have the time to fiddle with browning each. and. every. square. side. of. each. cube. of. meat. go ahead. When I don’t have the time, I toss the meat in and sauté/stew it altogether. As Julia said “You’re alone in the kitchen, who’s to know?” :)) Remove and reserve.

my little assembly line

4. Add a bit of oil to the pan and sauté the onions, carrots and celery, until softened.

5. Add the wine, scraping off any browned bits from the bottom and bring it to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

6. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F.

7. Add the stock, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, parsley sprigs, if using and return to boil. Add the meat.

8. Cover the cocotte and bake in the oven for 1h, 1h15. (if you’re making the full amount and depending on the toughness of your meat, bake it for 2h, 2h30. Check 3/4 of the way in, the meat might already be done. I took mine out after 1h now and it was perfect)

9. If you can, I never bother though, remove the bay leaf, parsley sprigs and garlic.

10. Add the reserved bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions and return in the oven for another 15 minutes.

comfort and luxury rolled into one

— this is where it is done; you can finish it off with a beurre manie —

Beurre manie for full recipe

Ingredients:

3 tbsp softened butter

3 tbsp flour

Preparation:

1. In a clean saucepan/frying pan, melt the butter and quickly add the flour and stir. It should be “runny” like a runny custard, I guess… (if it is too dry, add some butter…. but it also not that big a deal… all you need here is the flour to be more easily incorporated in the sauce, that is why it should be runny with the butter and not clumpy and dry…. Which is easily fixed with a whisk and some elbow grease…)

2. Strain the sauce of the bœuf bourguignon and whisk in the beurre manie a bit at a time in the jus. (Do not add all the beurre manie if you don’t need to and also don’t make it as thick as you would want it to be. It will “thicken” up a bit by the veggies and meat you will add back to the sauce)

3. Add the strained meat and vegetables back in the sauce, season to taste, add a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley, if you’d like and enjoy it with boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, (egg) noodles, etc… this is so good on its own that it goes with everything! Oh, and don’t you dare forget to finish that bottle of wine you started! 🙂

***** Julia Child “sauté de boeuf à la Bourguignonne, certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” (source Wikipedia) *****

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